In my decades of hospitality experience, I never understood why some customers felt the need to treat the employees like garbage.
“A famous television chef came to my restaurant with his family and started a food fight with his brother in front of the other diners. They were throwing baked Alaska at each other and screaming like 4-year-olds. The chef is my age (around 40), and the manager wouldn’t let us do anything because he’s famous in my country. They then went into the bathroom and had a water fight with the toilet water. Splashing another diner in the process.”
“I had a regular who I’d served for YEARS at multiple restaurants ask me my name. When I said he’d known me for years, he said he’d remember me if I slept with him. Instantly, I went and told my manager I would not set foot behind the bar again until that guy was gone. My manager just said he’d take over. Like, no!!! Go tell him to get the f*ck out! That is not how you protect your staff. I ended up having to serve him again a few weeks later. The kicker? His wife would also come in all the time. It was so tempting to tell her, but I just didn’t want the drama.”
“I accidentally turned around, bumped into a hostess, and she dropped all the menus she was carrying. So, I stopped and helped her pick them up and said sorry. Some wild, drunk lady sitting at the bar started screaming at me that I was a bully. She said she saw what I did, and she was gonna ‘eff me up,’ etc., etc. Not only did my piece-of-shit manager not kick her out, she just told me to stay away from her — when she was basically on top of my section. LMAO.”
“When I graduated from high school, I decided to take a gap year before heading off to uni in London. I ended up working as a bartender/waitress/restaurant supervisor, all for this one small craft beer and hotdog place. One Friday night, I was working by myself on the main floor with our two chefs and the big boss who owned the place. A customer came up and sat at one of our outdoor hightop tables. He seemed a little drunk but not too bad, happier than anything else, but I was cautious of him anyhow. After I took his order and returned with the goods, he grabbed my arm and started saying how ‘lovely and long my neck is’ and how he ‘just wants to sink his teeth into it.’ I was creeped out. I yanked my arm away and told him I would get his bill for him to pay up and leave.
“My boss came over and sat down with the customer and lit a cig. I thought, ‘Great, he’s gonna tell the guy off. He saw the whole thing. He’s gonna make sure this guy doesn’t cause any trouble.’ But noooooo. I heard my boss say to the guy, ‘Wait till she bends over, and you look down her top. She’s got this sexy mole on one of her tits, and trust me, they’re definitely something you want to sink your teeth into.’ I was unbelievably appalled by the fact that my boss JOINED IN on the harassment and didn’t defend me against this rude customer. Needless to say, I quit that night and never came back. I heard that one of the chefs overheard the whole thing when he had his smoke break and had very choice words with the restaurant owner.”
“A customer slapped my ass so hard my whole body moved, and then, he put a hundred dollar bill in my pocket. My disgusting manager at the time responded by saying, ‘Well, you are wearing shorts, and you’re here to make money.'”
“A lady saw me cut myself (when I worked at a bagel shop) and saw me in pain AND bleeding. Instead of being a decent human being OR being empathetic, she kept rushing me and yelling at me to continue making her food. Sure, evil lady. Here’s your bloody bagel.”
“A group of dudes came into the chain diner I used to work at on my third shift, and they were drunk. They all had long, complicated orders, and one of the dudes got impatient. His friend had a takeout box of chicken wings, and the impatient dude took a bone out of his friend’s mouth, threw it at me, and hit me in the eye. I flipped out and threw the chicken wing back at him. I lifted the table, and their chocolate milk (these were adult men, by the way) spilled all over their white clothes. There were five of them, and I’m a 5’3″ chunky female, and I was ready to fight all five of these dudes. They called me all kinds of names, and my manager and cooks came out (one of which looked like Tony Soprano), and the dudes backed off. Somebody called the cops on them, and they got arrested for disorderly conduct and assault at the gas station next door. I kept my job.”
“I worked at a Starbucks as a barista. A mom ordered her kid a frappuccino, and I went to bring it to her. She grabbed it, examined it closely, and threw it back at me because it didn’t look ‘right.’ I was covered in frappuccino yet still made her an exactly identical one which she told me looked much better. I put in my two weeks after that shift.”
“On my last day working at Taco Bell, we had a lady come through, and we had forgotten her Enchirito. I tried to chase her car to give it to her before she drove off but couldn’t catch up before she pulled out of the parking lot. She called about half an hour later, and I told her we were very sorry we forgot it and would be happy to remake it or refund her, whichever she preferred. She began cursing and swearing at me, calling me all types of names, and said that I would never amount to anything in life, that I was just a stupid fast food worker — blah blah blah. She got about halfway through her rant, and I said, ‘You know what, ma’am, it’s my last day, so I don’t have to take this,’ and hung up on her.”
“Once, when I was a host, a customer walked in to look at our menu and slapped me in the face with it as a ‘joke.’
“Another time as a server, right after everything opened back up for inside dining, someone left me half of a 10-dollar bill as a tip. 🙃”
“I was 17 years old and working as a hostess. I had recently started birth control and gained a little bit of weight, mostly in my stomach area. As I was seating a table, a woman asked how far along I was. I was crushed that she thought I was pregnant. I said, ‘Oh, I’m not pregnant.’ Her daughter, maybe in her mid-20s, said, ‘What? She clearly looks like she’s pregnant!’ And then, I went to the bathroom and cried for a very long time. I was already struggling as a very tiny teenager and feeling like I was losing control over my weight, but I will never forget that rude woman who completely ruined my self-image for a very long time.”
“I worked as a host and server at a yacht club over the summer when I was in college in an affluent town. Many of the members were very entitled, but the few who were genuinely kind and gracious made it worth it. Since it was the Fourth of July weekend, we had volunteers at the parking lot entrance double checking if cars had member parking passes because parking is hard to find during high season. Tourists were known to sneakily park at the back of the club to get close to the beach. A member came in on a tirade about how a volunteer at the entrance didn’t know who he was (they simply asked for his name and member number when he drove in) and how his family had been members for over 50 years. ‘My MOTHER helped to FOUND this club!’ That’s all well and good, but I had personally never seen him before myself, and we have hundreds of members. He continued his tirade and eventually demanded a table from me.
“When I politely asked for his name to check the reservation, he EXPLODED in anger and TEARS. A 50-something-year-old man was now angry crying in front of me because a 19-year-old college student was just doing their job and didn’t know who he was off the top of their head. My manager and the yacht club president had to calm him down like a 5-year-old having a breakdown over a toy. Several minutes later, another panic rushed through the front-of-house staff. He had now locked himself in the bathroom. He was eventually coaxed out by management with the promise of a free dinner.”
“Not sure what category this is under, but I had a customer who left their used needle under a napkin on their plate after giving themselves insulin. When I was clearing their table, I dropped a few things by accident, and when I was picking everything up, I accidentally pricked myself with a needle. Nobody had told me, ‘Be careful I left my used, open needle on one of the plates.’ I’m still shocked years later that nobody had the decency to tell me it was there.”
“I was working fast food while working on my master’s, and a lady came up with her family and ordered three meals — all with sweet tea. She never specified the size of the sweet tea, and I later verified this with my manager (who was within earshot). I grabbed her drinks and started filling them up, and she snarled, ‘I SAID I WANTED THEM LARGE!’ Okay, no problem. I put on my cheery voice and went, ‘Great! I’ll fix that for you!’ She’d already paid, and the restaurant was big on ‘the customer is always right,’ so I was just gonna trade them out for large drinks, no up-charge necessary. As I was filling the new cups, she just kept going. She said things about how, of course, I’m working fast food, and I’ll be worthless for the rest of my life if I can’t even listen to her order properly. (Again, I confirmed with three separate people that she never asked for large drinks). And she said that I must be a disappointment to my parents.
“I ended up giving her the drinks, and my manager came up behind me and said, ‘Go to the back for a minute,’ and I went into the kitchen and broke down. The stuff she said was so unnecessarily cruel, and I sobbed.
“I’d never wished something bad would happen to someone before I met that lady.”
“I worked in a popular pizza delivery chain. Once, I had a woman spend 15 minutes cussing me out on the phone and another 15 minutes cussing me out in the store because she put the wrong phone number on her cash delivery order. When my driver couldn’t get into the building, he called the number that was on the order. The person that answered said they didn’t order a pizza, so I canceled it, thinking it was a prank order. This lady wouldn’t even give me a chance to talk and offer to remake her order. She just kept cussing me out about, ‘Why does it matter what phone number is on the delivery order?’ 🙄”
“I work at a coffee shop, and I‘ve had customers scream at me, throw things, talk to me like I‘m stupid, and leave bad Yelp reviews about me. That‘s fine, but the one that gets me every time is the customers that get upset over us not accepting cash. We are a cashless business (and yes, it is legal). But we get an array of the same arguments: ‘This is legal tender!’ ‘This is America!’ ‘It‘s for all debts, public and private! IT SAYS SO RIGHT ON THE BILL!’ Yo, I was not in the meeting where this was decided! I have zero power over this! Sticking your finger in my face and telling me I‘m stealing or discriminating against you is doing NOTHING. I‘m a barista. I wasn’t even at the register when you ordered. You coming to me and giving me a good what-for on your way out is ridiculous. I had a guy storm out yelling, ‘No cash, no business’ five times, and I‘m just standing there like, ‘no… please… come back…'”
“In college, I worked as a server for a popular seafood chain. The racist, homophobic, and sexist things people would passively say to me were outrageous. One time specifically, I was serving a family of four (a husband, wife, and their two teenage sons) when randomly, in our conversation, the husband said to me, ‘You’re not one of those…’ and proceeded to lift his forearm and drop his wrist. His wife yelled, ‘Bill!’ I thought she would reprimand him, but nope! She proceeds. ‘Oh course, he’s not, he’s a good Catholic Irish boy.’ I was completely shocked and did not know what to say, so I just walked away.
“There were so many assumptions made about me in just a moment. I was, in fact, ‘one of those 💁🏼♂️’ but did not want to lose out on the tip, so I kept quiet. I’m still mad at myself for not speaking up. Also, women made unwarranted sexual advances on male servers A LOT. Very often, if an older woman found one of us male servers attractive, they would try to give us our tip by directly shoving it into our aprons while trying to cop a feel. I have arm tattoos and had a few women grab my arm and run their fingers across my tattoo, saying they just want to ‘read what it says.’ Um, that doesn’t give you the right to assault me, Susan.”
“My worst experience? A man got me fired for, wait for it, serving him left-handed because that’s the hand of the devil! Yes, he freaked out and yelled at me, the management, and demanded I deliver everything right-handed with my left hand tied down. I just shook my head and went to wash the dishes. And I got told if I couldn’t serve people with my right hand, then I was fired. I’m left-handed, so I said no way and walked.”
“I worked the dinner/closing shift at a Big Boy. There were no problems until the ‘church people’ came in. They always came in a large group a half hour before closing (grrr) — usually when the last and only waitress was on shift. They were a rude, demanding bunch with a self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude. They filled the whole place up. They all ordered coffee, desserts, and food. Desserts, beverages, and salads were made by waitstaff. There was one cook left who was busy trying to work through the closing shift chores while being slammed in the kitchen. I did my best to get everyone served with beverages and orders placed — within 20 minutes! I hustled filling coffee and water, making desserts and milkshakes, clearing dishes, and running from one side to the other as needed. I did my best to smile since I needed that job. Finally, it was closing time, and I happily rang them out as fast as possible.
“Exhausted, frustrated from their demands (I want stronger coffee…more ice…less ice…this Coke doesn’t taste right…I want my banana split just like the picture, EXCEPT they want this syrup flavor on this flavor ice cream in this order with the whipped cream like this, etc., etc.).
“I turned to the dining room.
“It looked like wild hyenas on acid came in and partied with drunk rhinos. If I weren’t so tired, I would have cried. Every booth/table needed to be cleaned and prepped for the night, and that’s BEFORE I could even get to my closing shift chores. Strategically piled dinnerware (think Jenga), water glasses turned upside down on the table — with water still inside. (Haha, real funny, you assholes), crumbs and napkins everywhere, condiments opened. These were ADULTS doing this. WTF??? I made less than $2 in tips — mostly in pennies leftover when paying since they assumed that leaving little pieces of paper with bible verses was payment enough for my services. They did the same thing every time to anyone unfortunate to be working that shift. We all HATED them. Complaining would get you fired, so we all just sucked it up. There weren’t a lot of jobs around, and we all needed the paycheck. I was so happy when I quit.”
“I worked at Bob Evans through undergrad. One night, this old, white guy stopped me and asked me what my heritage was. Although I should’ve never answered, I responded that I was 1/4 Arabic. He asked if it was ‘in my blood’ to blow people up.”
“I was 18, waiting tables at a casual family-owned restaurant in Texas. They were a ‘known for their chicken fried steak’ kind of place. Very family friendly, nothing inappropriate. One night, a 50-something-year-old man and his wife came in. He was flirting in a super creepy way, which I truly didn’t know how to handle since I was so young. When I asked if they wanted any dessert, he asked for whipped cream to-go, then asked if I wanted to join him and his wife at home later. He licked his upper lip while giving me graphic details about how I could use the whipped cream on both of them. I just walked away grossed out. I still regret not telling him off.”
“I worked at a pizza restaurant in a wealthy area. I was asked by an older lady for banana peppers for her salad. We didn’t carry them. We had a very limited menu. She called me stupid and continued to try to belittle me simply because the restaurant did not carry banana peppers. I was just working on my master’s degree and was an honors student putting myself through college. I hope this horrible individual stumbles across this story and remembers that it was her!”
And lastly, not all restaurant horror stories end in dirty dishes and broken hearts. Sometimes, these terrible customers get exactly what they deserve after going bonkers on restaurant employees.
“I worked in a chain restaurant that also catered to guests of a hotel next door. Often, hotel customers would have a company allowance to spend. One such customer ordered a mixed grill well done. I told him we had a half-hour wait on food, and he seemed okay with that. His grill came 20 minutes later, and he seemed happy. I went to check on the food, and again, no complaints. However, when I cleared his plate, he started screaming at me, asking, ‘You expect me to eat this shit?! I waited over an hour for this mess!’ He’d eaten all but a mouthful but insisted it was inedible. When I tried to diffuse the situation (offering a replacement, refunding his company, etc.), he pulled out a knife and pointed it inches from my face. Needless to say, I was terrified! My manager swiftly came to my rescue and called the police.”
“I worked at this restaurant that sat about 25 people. The server was responsible for waiting on tables, bussing, dishwashing, and running the register. So, it was just a server and a cook on shift. I had this older couple that would always come in during my shift and be the rudest they could be. They always left food all over the table and floor after they were done eating and would never tip me. They always complained about everything from cold food to not filling up the coffee cups fast enough. If I didn’t get back to them as quickly as they liked, the husband would bang his spoon on the table or plate until I returned. Finally, after months of this disrespect, I had enough.
“They came in on a Saturday night right as we were getting ready to close. They wanted the special, which was prime rib, and we were out hours before they came in. I tried to explain that we were out and offered something else. I said that we had two pieces left, but they were fatty, and I wasn’t allowed to serve that because most customers would complain about it. They said he was not leaving until they got the special, so I went back to the cook and told him to heat those pieces for them. He did so in the microwave, I took their food out to them, and told them we were closing in five minutes and did they need anything else because I was going to ring up the bill. They said no, so I rang up their bill, and they paid for it, and I brought them their change. I hadn’t even gotten back to the table when the husband started yelling about how fatty the meat was and wanted a refund, and they wanted something else, or they were going to complain to the owner. I informed them that the cook had already cleaned the grill, and the kitchen was closed for the night. The husband and wife then took the food and threw it on the floor, and started to walk out. I blocked them from leaving and was on the phone with the police. The police came and advised them that they had vandalized the restaurant and showed them the broken plates and glasses all over the floor. The owner watched the tape and saw I didn’t do anything wrong, and they were banned from the restaurant for life.”
If you ever worked in food service, I want to know if you have similar “customers from hell” stories. Sound off in the comments!
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